Home oratory

Over the years I have developed the habit of setting aside a place - a "prayer closet" or "home altar" for praying the Daily Office in a disciplined way (or attempting to).  When I bought a condo a few years ago, I screened off a portion of the (rather long) bedroom as a private chapel for this purpose.  Upon moving to my curret ministry setting with its parsonage, I moved my "chapel" out to the large storeroom in the backyard, but ultimately decided that I was not using it much out there, so I squeezed the altar into my study instead.

This contributes to the somewhat quasi-monastic character I'm trying to cultivate at our parsonage: like any good monastic house we have a library, home-grown produce, guest room, a big dinner table for hosting others, and the home altar.

I've more recently discovered that there is quite a tradition of "home oratories" ("orare" is Latin for "to pray" thus an "oratory" is a "prayer room" or chapel) among Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans, among other Christians.  It should be obvious that setting up an altar, or even having a special place (like a "prayer chair" as Richard Foster recommends) is not at all necessary for maintaining a regular prayer life; but it can indeed be helpful as a physical reminder and symbolic heart a God-centered household (which we are still striving to become).  In keeping with the words of Jesus in Matthew 6, I am bit hesitant to post about this but perhaps someone may find this post, or the links, helpful in setting up your own prayer space. 

For Methodists (like myself) interested in recapturing John and Charles Wesley's "prayerbook spirituality" - they prayed the daily office each day and the litany each week - having a home altar is certainly a nice way to facilitate the discipline.  It is Methodism meets monasticism.  Below you can see what mine currently looks like. 

Many of the websites I've run across discussing or promoting the home oratory or home altar have suggested books (and other items) of devotion.  Of course I have numerous books in my study, but I primarily use:

The Holy Bible (in this case a large King James Version "Family Bible" with full-color facsimiles of 600 year-old illuminations), which naturally remains upon the altar;
The United Methodist Hymnal and The United Methodist Book of Worship are my primary devotion books besides the Bible (they contain the Daily Office and Canticles);
The Book of Common Prayer - occasionally "I mix it up" and use the BCP office or, if I'm pressed for time, use the shorter "Daily Devotions" (p. 136-140 in the 1979 BCP);
Wesley's Sunday Service book, particularly for praying the Litany, but also for the daily office sometimes.

And whatever devotion book I happen to be using (I tend to get Scriptures and readings from devotion books, rather than a daily lectionary), currently that is A Year with the Church Fathers.  I also recommend Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit and Day By Day with the Early Church Fathers.  

Of course I sometimes feel led to kneel and pray without following any form or book at all.  I believe it is important to have the regular rhythm (such as the Daily Office) but also to have the flexibility in the Spirit to deviate from it now and again.

How about you: do you have a set-aside place of prayer in your home?  Any devotional material you recommend for that purpose?

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Blogger Fr. Philip said...

Thanks, Daniel. I have the Horologion, which is the book of the hours on my study altar as well as various icons of saints that I feel particularly connected with. The Synaxarion, the lives of the saints, is another good resource to have for daily use.

10:44 AM, May 20, 2013  
Blogger danielhixon said...

Hi Fr. Philip,

I've been talking lately with a friend who is a seminarian about a good resource to use for discovering the Lives of the Saints. I often use "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" which is the resource for the Saints' Feast Days from the Episcopal church, which has a short bio of each figure, along with a suggested prayer and scripture readings. But I bet there are other good materials to look into...

9:33 AM, May 22, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to find another Methodist who practices formal prayer. Most of my friends think I'm either wierd or a closet Catholic. As worship services become more about having fun and the "right" tech gadgets, I find I long for the more formal parts of worship. My quiet time at my home alter is special.

6:25 PM, May 22, 2013  
Blogger Rev. Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Dear Anonymous,

There are, in fact, plenty of us out there in the UMC who (like John and Charles Wesley the leaders of the Methodist revival) have a great love of the liturgical traditions that we have inherited from Anglicanism.

I am one who actually to follows the guidance and uses the prayers of the official Book of Worship in preparing worship at my church as well. That is part of who we Methodists are, though it is oft-neglected.

8:17 AM, May 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel, thanks for inspiring me to create a "thin place" in my own home for prayer and devotion. To add to your list of books that can be used, Mike Aquilina's "Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians"; Thomas Oden's "Ancient Christian Devotional" series: and my favorite..."The Glenstal Book of Prayer: A Benedictine Prayer Book".

7:34 AM, May 24, 2013  

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